Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 OS HSM

Today I want to do a quick review of what is probably the best lens you can get for less than $500. The Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 OS HSM. I stumbled across this little gem when I was looking into buying the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR. I was looking for a good walk-around lens and after trying on the 16-35 I knew it wasn't the lens I was looking for (don't get me wrong, it's a GREAT lens for serious work, but not what I needed specifically).

It just so happened that my local camera shop had a used copy of the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 OS HSM for dirt cheap. I tried it out and I was hooked. It was exactly what I was looking for. It had everything that the Nikon 16-35mm offered and more. Now, before anybody gets the wrong idea, I want to point out that I am NOT comparing these two lenses other than for what I was looking for personally.

The wide aperture allows you to isolate the subject / The Sword, Austin TX
Here's what sold me on the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 OS HSM:
  • Speed. The aperture though variable is still plenty fast. Faster than the 16-35mm at the wide end, and much faster than Nikon's direct competition the 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VR.
  • Focal length range. This lens has the perfect focal length for most everyday shooting scenarios from landscapes and street photography to portraits and still-life. This lens has you covered.
  • Close-up focus. This was one of the biggest selling points for me. At right around 1:2 it's not true macro, but it's good enough. What I'm really excited about is close focusing at the wide-angle setting which allows you to do cool things with perspective distortion.
  • HyperSonic Motor. The Sigma HSM is right on par with Nikon's Silent Wave motor. Fast and quiet. Better than any other third-party offerings so far.
  • OS. Optical Stabilization isn't a really big deal to me, but if it's there, I'll use it. It does it's job.
The wide-angle gives a cool perspective / Dougie Fresh, Austin TX

As far as image quality goes this lens is really good especially for the price range. Wide open it's a little soft in the corners, especially at 17mm, but this doesn't really matter in the real world. If you're at f/2.8 either you're looking to get a shallow DoF or it's dark. In either case the corners aren't really important. Stopped down it's relatively sharp, good enough for most of my work. It's not as sharp as a Nikon pro lens, but it's not a pro lens. It's just about as sharp as the Nikon 16-85mm. Bottom line is that if your not printing billboards you're gonna be fine with this lens.

The Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 does have more distortion than a lot of lenses, but it's easily correctable in post. If you're not shooting a lot of architecture and straight lines I don't think it will be a big problem.

You wanna take cool macro shots with your everyday lens? This is the lens for you.

My final verdict is that this lens is a must have if you want the most versatile lens you can get without breaking the bank. It's small, light, well-built, fast, close-focusing, and inexpensive. What more could ask for?

(by the way, I chose the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 VR over the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR even though I was planning on spending the $1000)


brev00 said...

Very nice review that I agree with wholeheartedly. One thing: you did not mention the bokeh (although it is quite evident) which is a prime reason I bought the lens. Many people compare this lens to the Nikon 16-85 vr buying the NIkon for its reported sharpness. Personally, the Sigma is sharp enough for me while the good bokeh puts it over the top.

Camarillo Brillo said...

Been intrigued by this lens for years. Owned the 16-85mmVR but found it too slow, but sharp and the VRII really works wanders. Regretfully I sold it and pretty much regretted that for years.
Recently B&H had this for sale for $299.00 and jumped on it. Wow, it really is sharp, the HSM is swift, silent and accurate. And almost as wide and of course it's faster too!
The only thing that gives me pause, is the OS stays on for about a minute after taking a pic. Might prove to be a real battery drain.

Thanks for the review!

J. Dennis Thomas said...

You definitely can't beat that $299 price tag. I'm waiting for the newest version to come out. Sigma did a little redesigning of the lens both inside and out and if they can make this already great lens even better that would be awesome!

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